Campaign to lure Asians to gambling criticised

A community group is protesting as a government organisation tries to lure more Asians to buy lotteries – a mild form of gambling.

New Zealand Lotteries Commission, a Crown entity, is launching a marketing initiative to attract more Asians to buy lottery tickets. But Problem Gambling Foundation is concerned.

The Foundation told the New Zealand Herald that it is “irresponsible of the commission to be targeting the Asian community as Lotto is often a “stepping stone” to more serious gambling problems.”

New Zealand Lotteries Commission was set up in 1987 to raise money for the community.

In 2010, the commission paid (through Lottery Grants) $183.3 million to various community projects including SPARC, Creative New Zealand, and the New Zealand Film Commission.

Lottery sales in the 2010 amounted to $925.9 million – roughly equivalent to the revenue of major retailers combined – Briscoes, Rebel Sports, KFC, Hallensteins and Glassons.

In its briefing paper to the incoming minister last year, the commission highlighted its strategy to increase lottery sales – by getting people to buy more often, and by increasing the number of outlets.  Currently, NZ Lotteries already has New Zealand’s largest retail network, with more than 1,000 stores located in  supermarkets and corner dairies largely run by ethnic migrants.

The commission intends to promote online gambling by launching a new website in the coming months. “The new site will be easier to use and able to be accessed by a much larger variety of devices, including iPhones,” the briefing paper says.

According to the commission’s research, 86% of New Zealand’s adult population – about 2.8 million New Zealanders – buy lottery at least once each year. Problem gambling figures for the 2010/11 year show that NZ Lotteries products were cited 202 times as a primary mode of gambling by gamblers and affected others, who received a full intervention treatment for the first time.

Problem Gambling Foundation feels that gambling leads to more serious crime. According to the Foundation’s figures, 10,000 New Zealanders engaged in illegal activities because of their gambling (2008).

While Asian community faces a growing problem of gamblers, Māori and Pacific adults are about 3.5 times more likely than adults in the total population to be problem gamblers, according to the Foundation.

Lotteries Commission has completed some discussion with Asian retail stores to explore the possibility of selling lotteries through these stores.

“One retail sector that has experienced growth in recent years is supermarkets and grocery chains featuring Asian products in Auckland … these now represent a significant portion of the Auckland retail sector, however NZ Lotteries products are not currently sold through these stores,” commission spokeswoman Karen Jones told the Herald.

Jones says Auckland underperformed in sales last year, and a key difference between Auckland and the rest of the country was its proportion of people from an Asian background.

How serious is gambling problem?

The NZ Health Survey showed that 3% of adults  had experienced problems due to someone’s gambling in the previous 12 months.

Another study found that 9% of adults had gambled to a harmful level in the last 12 months.

Over 74,000 New Zealanders suffer from inferior mental health because of gambling.

10% of the adult population are regular continuous gamblers and are the most at risk of developing a gambling problem.

One in six New Zealanders say a family member has gone without something they needed or a bill has gone unpaid because of gambling.


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